caret-down
tractor on farm at sunset

From life on a farm, to life working at Campbell

Four Campbell employees share their experiences living on family-owned farms.

Here at Campbell, we know that real food has roots. Which is why we rely on our partnerships with farmers to grow the ingredients we use in our foods with care. But our reliance on agriculture experts doesn’t stop there. Many of our employees are experts in agriculture from their firsthand experience living on farms.

We sat down for a Q&A with a few of these employees to learn how their backgrounds in agriculture influence their work at Campbell.

Dr. Daniel Sonke, Director of Sustainable Agriculture, Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability

What jobs and responsibilities did you have on the farm you grew up on? 

I grew up on an almond farm near Ripon, California, and as a child, I’d be up at 6:00 a.m. each morning before school to move the pipes to irrigate the orchard and would return to move them a second time for evening irrigation. Weekends on the farm were spent stacking firewood, splitting logs, and running chainsaws to cut down unproductive trees in the winter.

What is something that might surprise people about growing up on a farm?

What people don’t often realize is that farmers are the original foodies. They know what is fresh and in-season, and the nuances of flavor and texture between varieties of a plant, much like a top chef. If you want to know good food, ask a farmer.

Is there anything you learned from living on a farm that you take with you in your career now?

My position at Campbell allows me to work directly with agriculture. My farming background has helped me connect with farmers, while also making it easier for me to understand the many considerations that go into something as seemingly simple as reducing water use. It’s been a huge benefit for my work, and I’m proud of what Campbell and our farmers have been able to accomplish together.

man with tomatoes
Dr. Daniel Sonke visits a Campbell tomato farm.

Jake Lake, Senior Buyer, Fresh Potatoes

What was your favorite part about growing up on a farm? 

I grew up on a row crop farm and cow-calf operation in Cassia County, Idaho, where my siblings and I began helping out at the age of eight or nine, spending the summer growing season essentially living outdoors.

There is nothing better than an Idaho sunrise at 5:00 a.m. Not many kids were up at that time of the day during summer vacation, but we were, and it was always special.

Is there anything you learned from living on a farm that you take with you in your career now?

I believe that agriculture never leaves your veins. I learned early on that hard work is difficult to teach, and in farming, the 8-to-5 mentality doesn’t exist, you just keep working until the job is done. It’s something I’ve taken with me into my current role.

Farming also requires you to wear a bunch of different hats, and that experience has contributed significantly to my ability to problem solve, especially when different perspectives are required.

What is something that might surprise people about growing up on a farm?

Farming is an incredibly sophisticated profession. Farmers are successful business people whose jobs require them to innovate and adapt or ultimately go out of business.

man on tractor
Senior Potato Buyer, Jake Lake, on his family’s row crop farm and cow-calf operation in Idaho.

Christian Coffey, Senior Ingredient Buyer – Juices and Concentrates, Purchasing

Is there anything you learned from living on a farm that you take with you in your career now?

I worked as the farm manager on a goat and sheep dairy farm in Tomales, California, where I handled operations including maintenance, scheduling, managing staff, payroll, accounting, production, herd health, capital projects and land management.

The list of things I learned could be endless, but two things stick out to me the most: 3:00 a.m. is not too early to start your day, and coffee cures all ailments.

What was your favorite part about working on a farm?

There was something truly special about being present for the passing of time. Working outside and in a routine on a dairy farm makes you very aware of small changes in the seasons and weather.

goat farm
Goats on Toluma Farms, where Christian Coffey worked as a farm manager. Photo credit: Toluma Farms and Tomales Farmstead Creamery.

Shane Wilson, Director of Trade Marketing, Pacific Foods

How did your experience growing up on a farm influence your career choice?

I grew up on a 25-acre farm in Southern Idaho, where most of our acreage was dedicated to alfalfa hay production to feed our horses and beef cows. I didn’t initially notice the influence of my farm background on my career, but through the years I’ve begun to understand the connection people have with land and agriculture, and it’s become the foundation of many relationships I’ve had with buyers and customers over the years.

What was your favorite part about growing up on a farm?

I essentially lived outdoors. Growing up on a farm I was able to experience different opportunities and advantages that were unique to the rural lifestyle. There was a lot of work, but then there was a lot of fun, too.

We’d drive tractors and ride horses, catch salamanders in the irrigation canal and sleep outside all summer long. We’d spend hours rearranging haystacks to make hay forts (don’t try that at home by the way!).

man on snow plow
Shane and his sons spend time plowing snow from his parents’ farm’s driveway on a recent visit home.